Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

December 1, 2023

Changing the Law to Start Charging

After months of negotiations and research, Representative Nancy VanderMeer (R-Tomah) and I are circulating a bill that enables high speed electric vehicle (EV) charging in Wisconsin. Early this year, we were approached by Kwik Trip, who is leading the effort, to change the law so that private-sector businesses can own and operate EV charging facilities throughout the state. This change will also enable Wisconsin to capture nearly $78 million in federal funding for EV charging infrastructure.
This sounds really simple, right?  It is – and it isn’t.

The simple – In Wisconsin, under current law, anyone who sells electricity must be regulated as a utility. It doesn’t make any sense for a gas station, convenience store or grocery store to be regulated as a utility when all they want to do is offer EV charging as a product for people who drive electric vehicles. They simply want to re-sell electricity to their customers. In order for private businesses to own and operate a high speed EV charger, we need to change the law.
This change will also enable Wisconsin to capture $78 million in National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program funding. These funds must be awarded to private-sector businesses to construct EV charging infrastructure on interstates, alternative fuel corridors and regional routes of significance. This is an 80/20 match program. But, again, in order for the private businesses to do it – we first need to change the law.
The complicated – Wide-scale, retail EV charging is a relatively new industry for Wisconsin. Therefore, there is no existing structure. We are at the precipice of a new industry and this is where the complicated work comes in.
In order to build the structure for a new industry, we worked with a wide variety of stakeholders including retailers, utilities, co-ops, renewable energy groups, local governments, road builders, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and everyone in between. In all, nearly 40 different stakeholders have contributed to this complicated conversation.
Our goal, in writing this bill, is to accomplish the simple – allowing retailers to sell electricity without being regulated as a utility; as well as the complicated – building a structure for the industry, protecting private-sector investments while maintaining public-sector engagement, providing parity with the gas tax and capturing $78 million from the Federal government. It’s a lot.
The bill we are circulating for co-sponsors accomplishes our goals. It allows private sector businesses to construct and sell electricity by the kilowatt hour without being regulated as a utility. It requires businesses to purchase power for this type of re-sale from a utility or co-op. 
The public sector (cities, counties, towns and villages) may continue to provide free access to Level 1 and Level 2 charging and may construct Level 3+ charging for their own fleet. The public sector cannot sell EV charging, but they can lease property to a private entity to own and operate EV charging on public property. This protects private-sector investments and prevents the private sector from competing with taxpayer dollars.
Finally, the bill establishes an excise tax on EV charging that will collect and distribute $.03 per kilowatt hour into the Transportation Fund for parity with the gas tax. This is the fund that pays for road maintenance, repair and construction. 
This bill does not make any changes to EV charging that occurs at a person’s residence.
The legislation we have written addresses nearly every stakeholder group’s concerns, needs and wants. However, this new industry is evolving. Amendments and/or additional legislation may be needed in the future.  Overall, I am very proud of our work to bring 40 different stakeholder groups together on a very complicated bill.

As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.